Dear colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are here to herald the start of a new era of US-German partnership. We have been important partners in the last 70 years and our relation is one the hand more stable than we dreamt years ago. On the other hand it is shaken through conflicts and different opinions on various issues. Today it is our goal to lay the foundation for a better and sustainable transatlantic cooperation.
One of our closest connections is trade. All our lives have improved since we started to trade with each other, to produce goods where they are most efficiently produced and to exchange them with each other. It’s true we don’t need TTIP, but we need real free trade. We don’t need some agreement that introduces a huge setting for something that by definition is very easy. For free trade, you don’t need a setting. The first step is just to cut tariffs and to establish reciprocal recognition of regulations.
In the last few decades it seemed that only a small group of rich people profited from free trade, but that’s not true. The group that benefits the most are we, as consumers! We got the freedom to buy goods from whomever we want. With free trade we are free to decide if we want to buy a Chevrolet or a BMW. Our preferences can be best served without any protectionist barriers. It’s true the world changes through free trade. But it’s normal for the world to change. This happens because of many other factors for example technological progress that can’t be controlled by us. Without the Internet all librarians would have kept there job and we there would be more libraries today. But do we really want to stop these changes?
Yes, some people will lose their job because of a free trade agreement. Some jobs will be moved from the US to Germany and vice versa. But we can’t stop this development by building a wall of protectionism. The best reaction to these changes is not to close the eyes and hide behind the curtains. We have to stay strong and work together as a worldwide community. Only if we face these problems together we are able to solve them.
Together we can ensure that those who may lose their jobs or don’t profit from recent developments get the support they need. All together we can find a way to change their situation. We can give them new chances by giving them further training and provide support to find new work.
Free Trade is no fight. It’s no zero-sum-game. It’s not about winners and looser. It’s the exact opposite. With free trade we can work together for a better future and profit from each other’s strength without weakening ourselves.
Where does it come from that we always think there are winners and losers in relationships between states? Nobody would ever think that if is bad for Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg or California and Texas to be able to trade freely and work together as easy as possible. This should make us think about the question why some countries and regions have closer connections than others. For some countries the explanation is easy. It’s seems logical that the US and Canada work together very closely because they are also geographically next to each other. Why is there the so-called special relationship between the UK and the US? The most reasonable explanation seems to be the shared history. But in my opinion there is more to it. Behind those relationships lies often some kind of mutual understanding between these countries and their people.
After WWII, we, Germany and the US, have always been allies. But do we really share this kind of mutual understanding?
The last months have made me think about it and I’m not yet sure about the answer.
But how could we expect that people share an understanding if they often don’t even know each other? What keeps groups together are common interests but even more important are personal connections.
I call for a US-German initiative to help people to develop this kind of understanding. This is especially but not exclusively necessary for those generation that haven’t grown up in a globalized world. This means ordinary workers from both sides of the Atlantic should get the chance to meat their counterpart on the other side. That’s how everyone get’s to know the similarities but also the real differences between our countries and this will serve as a basis for our future relationship. Personal contact to foreigners always helps us to understand other cultures and opens new perspectives for everyone.
It’s no coincidence that the ERASMUS program seems to be one of the most important and successful parts of European integration. Personal contact to other people from other countries helps us all to see the advantages of cooperation. Relationships between countries rely on personal contact between individuals. This means connections not only between diplomats or officials but between ordinary people. Even in younger generations there seem to be prejudices against other nationals but if we start now to build personal links we will be able to fight them.
You are right if you say that today there are more important problems then a week connection between Germans and Americans. And it’s true that we also have to focus on climate change, digital security and development politics.
But the problem is that these are challenges, we can only win as an international community. No nation can solve them alone. If we don’t start to build a transatlantic community now when should we begin? There is no more time to lose. This shall be the start of a new era of transatlantic policies. It’s upon our shoulders to spread this message and find a way to unite our strength for a better future.